Yet again I have been lax in my blogging… Life has been quite busy here in Brazil, and suddenly I woke up and it was the 1st July and half of the year had gone. And now it is less than 3 months until I move back home!
The biggest things to have happened of course are Dilma’s impeachment and Brexit… And that has had a very big economic impact here in Brazil in terms of the exchange rate. It is now less than 4.3 Reals to the pound. Which is a great improvement for Brazilians wanting to go abroad (similar trends against the dollar and euro too). And for those coming to Brazil for the Olympics, the strengthened Real has made it a bit more expensive again.
It is now just 1 month to go until the start of the Olympics. And there for sure is a lot still to get done. The metro is now at risk again the news is saying, needing an emergency R$1 billion to be able to finish in time. And even that ‘finished’ means open only for ticket holders and accredited people – not for general riders wanting to get between Barra and Zona Sul. Indeed the plan is that the metro would close again after the Olympics to complete the final works. Without the metro, getting out to the Olympic Park will be chaos I fear… The newly opened road between São Conrado and Barra has helped a lot, with an extra lane in each direction, but then one will be taken away for the Olympic Route Network, and instead of nice new metros carrying a thousand people in 15 minutes to Barra, it will be lines of buses carrying 50-60 people in… an hour? Of course, there always was going to be a bus – the metro stops at the start of Barra, where you then have to catch the new BRT (a dedicated walled off lane with big bendy buses) that runs to the Olympic Park then. But maybe a <1 hour journey time from Zona Sul to the Park could comfortably become >2 I fear.
There’s been a lot of scaremongering over the Games… From police protests at the airport saying ‘welcome to hell’ advising people not to come to Rio, pollution scares, Zika… Living here, I haven’t seen any real change in policing, and the biggest part is being provided by the miltary anyway. And emergency loans to pay for security have been approved. The pollution in the bay is quite worrying, but talking to people who have been sailing there, they suggest it isn’t quite as bad as some of the media are making out. Plans to make use of certain tidal conditions etc. can reduce the impact a lot. It is of course very sad that over the previous 7 years almost nothing has managed to be done to cut down the pollution…
I was talking to some people over the last couple of weeks who have suffered indirectly in another way from the Olympics. Rio state is officially in a ‘catastrophe’, and indeed some police, firefighters, health care workers are not being paid. But state managed schools and universities have also been suffering – the state university in Rio has been on strike for 4 months now! Countless schools over the state have been shut too. A generation of people are suffering – 4 months of education is a lot of time to miss and have to make up. There is a complex mix of city, state and federal systems. City and Federal are working ok still, but State is not. Emergency government funding to the state is being prioritised towards Olympic Security, and still universities remain on strike over pay. From a small city a few hundred km from Rio, I’ve heard that initially teachers were being paid half of their salary, with plans to pay the rest in instalments, before the money stopped flowing all together.
But I don’t think it is far to blame this on the Olympics – for me it is down to chronic mis-management of projects, corruption and embezzlement. There should have been enough money for everything, even despite the economic downturn. The metro for instance, to suddenly find itself a R$1 billion short… that isn’t a small sum of money to sudden find missing in the last 30 days, only 30 days after saying everything is now on track!
And the requested loan for the R$1 billion for the metro? BNDES, the Brazilian government’s development bank that does investment loans, will not lend any more money until the payments are made on the existing loans… which of course they are behind in paying. The new loan is in part to go in paying the old loan… Look, it is all the government in the end, be in city, state of Federal. Make things happen!! The eyes of the world are in Brazil, and silly political infighting and divisions will only help achieve failure of the world’s largest sporting event.
It may not be the most popular thing in Brazil right now, it may be blamed for funnelling money away from areas where it is needed. But 95% of it has been spent now. Either get the last 5% completed, or see the whole 95% of it just wasted on a project that might fail.
Actually this isn’t where I was intending this blog post to go…. but it seems I started on a little rant!
The final three months for me are going to be a hectic, fun, crazy time. From working 24/7 shifts, seeing some of the Games, and preparing everything to move back to the UK! German House is a short distance down the beach from me in Leblon – I have very good memories of many nights or afternoons in German House in London, as again it was pretty close to my house!
So my promise to post more regularly…. seems to have taken me 4 months to get to this post! And it has been a very busy and hectic four months indeed, both with work and personally. But that’s not my excuse for not posting!
I’m having a nice postponed weekend of Monday and Tuesday off, as we are in the heart of Test Events for Rio2016 right now, meaning I end up working some odd days and hours. I do like having midweek days off sometimes, it can be a lot quieter to get things done than weekends.
In more recent memory, August has had the most fantastic spell of weather, with only around 2 or 3 evenings with some light rain. Other than that, it has been a beautiful 25-30 every day. However the drought situation, in São Paulo especially, hasn’t gone away; there is a desperate need for lots of rainfall. It’s been spoken about for months, even years, about how bad the situation is. In Rio, although there have been some warnings, the situation is not as drastic. I understand they have rolling water outages in some areas of São Paulo, with people getting up at the very early hours to collect buckets of water as water isn’t flowing during the day. And of course, when the majority of the electricity comes from hydroelectric power, that means power outages too.
At home, we are now the proud owners of a new sofa!! I wish I had done this long ago – truly live transforming to have a big comfortable recliner sofa in front of the TV:) We had the sofa that came with the apartment as the back of the room, and a bean bag chair and a couple of dining chairs at the front to watch TV – not the most comfortable arrangement always, especially with any guests round. With the decline of the Real against the Pound, it does make some things here now far more affordable. Indeed, even imported goods now don’t always seem extortionate! At last check, it had reached 5.5 R$ to the £… From 2.9 when we arrived here in 2012…
Of course for someone paid in Reals, it doesn’t make a difference to the costs here, but for someone whose salary is based in Euros, Dollars, Pounds etc, it makes the city seem far more affordable all of a sudden. Unfortunately, the other way round is also true – Brazilians going abroad now are having holidays costing a hell of a lot more than a few years ago. I’ve heard that some of the airlines are cutting down their frequency of flights to the US, as they just aren’t getting the passengers right now because against the dollar, it has moved similarly from just above 2 to around 4 dollars to the Real now.
This month saw 1 year to go onto the Olympics, and at the rate this year is flying by, it really won’t be long until we get there! Although for sure there is a lot of work to be done still, progress in some areas is picking up, and there are some good signs out there. One of my biggest worries is the metro extension to Barra. There has already been some noises about this not being ready on time, and if it is not ready for the start of the Games, getting to the Olympic Park would be a nightmare. Even with the extension, it won’t be easy – a metro followed by a bus (BRT – big bendy busses running in private lanes). Without it…. it would be chaos for sure.
In front of my apartment I have a new station being built, that actually looks to be making good progress now (although very late from when I first moved here and it was expected to be done). The station entrances are up, but there is still lots of heavy construction going on – who knows what is underground! Further down the road however at the location of the next station, or some of the areas where they are doing work above ground, I really can’t see any change above ground in the last year really… And this is only in the first 4km of the extension. For some odd reason, there are only putting one single stop then in São Conrado, and then another in Barra. There for sure is plenty of work going on in Barra, and with it being several months sometimes between when I go that way, I can see big changes each time I do go.
What I haven’t seen any news on lately is where the tunnel is, which was heavily set back by subsidence in Ipanema when they first started tunnelling. The surveyors are there every day measuring still, although actually I have seen them less in the last month it seems, so perhaps the tunnel is now past us and moving on?
Owning a cat is always an adventure! Only one major breakage so far (a lamp)… And trying hard to make sure the sofa remains scratch free. She does like sitting on it… taking up the largest seat for herself of course!
Oh… and I smashed my rather nice Riedel swan neck decanter…. we moved it to keep it safe from the decorators who were in and the cat, and then I broke it forgotten where it was… And then last night I also cracked my oldest decanter, which although cheap (I think €10 or 15 from 2004!), it had survived a lot of journeys and a hell of a lot of wine through it! But a slight knock had a crack spread unfortunately. So now no decanters… But, as it has been pointed out to me, these are just material things, which even if the exact one cannot be replaced, the role it serves can easily be replaced. This is not true of everything. So, taking advantage of the exchange rate, Riedel glass wear is far cheaper in Brazil right now than in the UK! So time to build a new collection, and hope it survives shipment back to the UK!
Let’s see how long it takes me to post next time… Hopefully not another 4 month gap!